It’s that time again!!

Oh look, it’s a suitcase photo! This means I’m packed and ready to go on my next adventure! Up until now I have been gradually working through my preparation check list and the last item is ” do a trial blog”. So once this is done, I can relax and get excited!! My plane leaves Adelaide at 21:50 tomorrow night and then it’s off to London via Dubai I go! Yay!

I’m very blessed to be able to have these trips and I look forward to what God has in store for me this time.

As usual, I intend to share some of my photos and stories with you, dear readers, but you know from past experience, it won’t be consistent: just when I have time and energy to do so.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip…I know I will! 😉

My Orcadian Experience.


Are you getting the idea that islands seem to feature majorly in this holiday of mine? I have always yearned to see the Orkneys! I’m not sure why, but it’s most likely because of a book or books I’ve read in the past! It fascinates me that most of Orcadian history is Nordic/Viking related rather than Celtic. This means their language/accent/folklore is quite different from Mainland Scotland, or from the Hebridean islands. So…..Much to explore!

I stayed the night of Tuesday 18th July at a very comfortable BnB called Teuchters just 2 minutes from the Gill’s Bay ( not far from John ‘O’ Groats) ferry terminal, ready to board first thing on the Wednesday, to travel to Orkney. This time on a ferry was different from earlier on in my trip as I now had a car, but the staff are well used to giving specific and helpful directions for the whole process. Although chilly, I like to ride on the outside deck..Much better viewing! 

So, off I went, arriving at a dear little village called St Mary’s Hope on the Orkney Island called South Ronaldsay.

After a restoratative coffee and flapjack (a kind of Oaty slice) in the peedie ( small) café, a chat to some fellow travellers, and a quick walk around the village, I set off to explore South Ronaldsay. A few things struck me immediately, and continued to do so all around the islands of Orkney that I was able to visit:

  • Generally the Orkneys are quite flat, with not many trees.
  • Most of the islands consist of fertile looking farmland….Lots of very happy, healthy looking cows. 
  • Orkney is an archeological paradise: bones, fossils, buildings, utensils etc from 2000-3000 years ago ( or longer) are the norm!! And quite easily accessible. 
  • The Orkneys were quite strategically important in WW2. (for the Navy especially)
  • The Orcadians are generally (only really met 1 exception) friendly, kindly and welcoming. They didn’t seem to eye the tourist with distrust but embraced us!! ( Literally in 1 case!) 
  • Orcadians are proud of their Viking heritage. 
  • There’s a wonderful music, art and theatre culture on Orkney. 
  • It’s wonderfully easy to drive around South Ronaldsay and the Mainland without needing to use a ferry service. Which is what I did. If I’d had more time,  I would have happily used the connecting ferry services to the other major Orkney islands. I would have needed a yacht to see them all, however! 
  • The coast line(s) are spectacular!
  • They brew their own , highly respected whisky, plus there are 3 Gin companies.
  • Local dairy produce and seafood are GOOD!  Excellent restaurant ( with beautiful views) at the very South of  South Ronaldsay.The Italian chapel built by Italian POWs.The Churchill barriers, now a causeway that joins South Ronaldsay to the Mainland.

    After exploring South Ronaldsay for quite a few hours, I crossed to the Mainland ( via the Churchill barriers) and proceeded to Highland Park Whisky Distillery for a tour and tasting! It was very interesting and I enjoyed the 2 drams I tasted! My preference was for the 12 year old Whisky with the peatey taste! A long, time-consuming process is Whisky making! 

    On arrival in Stromness, I manoeuvred my way through the narrow, sometimes one way, streets and found my delightful Airbnb accommodation for the next 3 nights. It was great! Owned by a young couple who are slowly renovating their very old townhouse, Number 19A is situated right on the narrow , winding, quirky main street. Excellent! After my Whisky quaffing, interesting day, I slept very soundly that night! 

    Thursday was a very wet day! But that was ok, there was plenty to look at and explore that was undercover. I happened to be in Stromness in their 67th annual Shopping Week, which added quite a lot of bustle to charming little Stromness. Shopping week started as a way to bring locals, businesses, farmers and culture together. All the shops have special displays and deals! There was live music by local artists, thankfully undercover , as it poured most of the day, face painting, stalls, lots of food and lots of people. After doing my personal best for ‘shopping week’ , I dropped my parcels home and then explored the wonderful Art gallery. A wonderfully soggy, fun, friendly, expensive day!! 

    Friday, thankfully, was a dry day with sunshine, so it was perfect to explore the many amazing archeological discoveries on the mainland of Orkney. Stones of Stenness.Barnhouse  Neolithic village.Ring of Brogdar.Skara Brae Neolithic village.Relplica hut from Skara BraeBrough of Birsay.

    As you can see from the above photos, it was a beautiful day for touring the many archeological treasures on the mainland of Orkney. 

    The next day, Saturday, was my last morning in Stromness. Having packed the car, leaving a farewell note for my hosts (they were off on a Kayak course), I drove to the ferry terminal and parked my car in the queue. It always amazes me just how many vehicles can fit in a ferry…. Trucks, buses, caravans, cars of all description and motor bikes are all parked with practiced precision! So it was goodbye to Stromness, on Orkney and a short 100 minute journey to Scabster, near Thurso, on the Scottish mainland. We sailed past another famous landmark…The Old Man of Hoy!

    2 Aussies, a Scot and an Irishman got into a car…..

    A funny thing happened on the way to Scotland, when leaving Newcastle-upon-Tyne……

    Patrick and I had a lovely, slow morning, a leisurely brunch at an awesome cafe, then we headed to the Newcastle railway station about 11.40 ish in time for me to catch the 12:43 to Edinburgh, and he to return the hire car and get to work at 3 pm. I had 3 connecting trains, a ferry and a bus to catch to get me to Dunoon/Sandbank ready for my cruise the next day.

    On arrival, we soon discovered that a couple of trains North had been delayed due to signal failure up the line. No problems! It will all be fixed soon! This kept happening, and they started to move us to different platforms, but no trains left for the North! Pat & I talked to station staff and they thought I’d have no problems getting away…Late but still going, so Pat went off to get ready for work, etc. The trains from the South kept arriving and disgorging more and more passengers. I was told to go to Platform 3, no Platform 2, no that was Platform 4!!!!! By now, it was 13.30 and there were approximately 1500-2000 passengers waiting to go North! Still the signals were down!!  I rang Pat and we discussed the matter….. He rang work and was excused from his shift, he picked me up and we went to Hertz to see if we could extend the car hire for 1 more day! Patrick would drive me up to Scotland!

    I rushed into the Hertz office and blurted ” May I extend the car hire for a day? The trains are cancelled, and I need to get to Scotland!!! ”

    Sure, the nice man said, but I noticed 2 young business men looking crest fallen. They were hoping to hire my car to drive themselves home to Edinburgh, as their train had of course been cancelled too. I made 1 of those split decisions that I don’t do very often……”We can drop you off in Edinburgh , if you like, if you help with petrol money.” “Great!” they replied.

    By the time Patrick walked in, 2 minutes later, I presented him with our new passengers, David, a Scot, and Mark, the Irishman who had been a Scot for 5 years!!!

    Whilst Patrick quickly went to pick up some Euros ( he was going to Corfu on Sunday) , David and Mark withdrew £20 each, which they presented to me for Petrol money. (Way Too much but they insisted!) Then started our brief , but enjoyable, friendship!

    We spent the next 2.5 hours chatting, laughing, swapping travel stories, and generally enjoying our road trip. They also had some excellent tips and ideas for travelling the Scottish Highlands, which Pat and I appreciated. Such is the Serendipitous  experiences of travel!!!

    It did take us on a slightly longer track to Dunoon, but we arrived at my pre arranged BnB at 9 pm, having had a lovely trip, great views, dinner @ Greenoch on the way, a ferry ride AND extra time together. Thankfully, I had a twin room booked at the Bnb so there was a bed for Patrick. He got up early the next morning, caught the first ferry, and having returned the car, arrived at work for his 11 am start, on time!!

    Thanks to Patrick, I was there, all ready to catch my wee boat!

    Hebridean Odyssey : Part 3

    This is the final part of my “report”! I wasn’t able to publish all the photos I wished to in Part 2; due to technical difficulties! So here they are! ( Whether you want them or not!!)Life aboard the Splendour:

    Some Wildlife:

    Some special cafe spots:Mull

    Muck

    Muck

    Skye

    Barra

    Iona

    Iona

    Trips ashore:Stonefield Castle Hotel

    Tarbert, Loch Fyne

    Saddell Abbey 


    Fingal’s Cave

    Iona

    Colonsay 

    Muck

    Tobermory, Mull

    Oban

    Dunvegan, Skye

    Rhum

    Shiants 

    Barra

    Shiants

    Lunga

    Hebridean Odyssey : Part 2. 

    The Splendour in all her splendour! (From Argyll Cruising website!) 

    I have pondered long and hard upon the best way to write up 14 days/13 nights of wonderment! How to include it all without putting my readers to sleep?? So, I’ve decided upon Lists and Photos…..Hope you get an idea of how wonderful it was! 😊

    PS: you might need a map!!

    PPS: All photos are in right section but might not correspond correctly in order of lists!!! ( Sorry )

    Islands visited:


    • Colonsay
    • Iona
    • Staffa
    • Lunga
    • Barra
    • Harris
    • Shiants
    • Skye
    • Rhum
    • Muck
    • Mull

    Islands seen up close or anchored near:


    • Gigha
    • Islay
    • Jura
    • Tiree
    • Coll
    • Mingulay
    • Pabbay
    • Sandray
    • Vatersay
    • South Uist 
    • North Uist
    • Scalpay 
    • Eigg.       

    The Wheelhouse

      We were all welcome in the Wheelhouse at any time during sailing. It had plenty of room for us to sit or stand, we could check our position on Skipper’s maps & charts, and he patiently answered our questions.. about the sea, the islands, Scotland or the wildlife. He had but 1 rule: if he said we had to leave and go downstairs, because of a crisis or rough weather, we must; immediately! 
      Anchorages for each night:

      • Loch Riddon  : Mainland
      • Tarbert, Loch Fyne : Mainland
      • Campbeltown, Loch Fyne : Mainland
      • Glenbatrick, Jura
      • Lunga
      • Castlebay: Barra
      • Lochboisdale: South Uist
      • Loch Maddy : North Uist
      • Tarbert: South Harris
      • Dunvegan : Skye
      • Loch Scresort: Rhum
      • Loch Na droma budhie : Mainland
      • Loch Spelve : Mull

      I quickly learnt that there are sea Lochs, not just freshwater, land Lochs!  Much care was taken by Skipper each night to secure us a safe, calm, protected anchorage…..In one case , Loch Scavaig, he wasn’t happy with the lack of safety, so we went on to Loch Scresort! Another night, it took nearly 2 hours before he was happy that the anchor was secure….Bad mud apparently! 
      Trips ashore:

      An event I looked forward to,  nearly daily, was our trips ashore, in the Tender. The tender was fun to zoom along in, once we were all sitting in the correct places to balance it, and once we were all wearing our life jackets! Skipper used various methods of landing us ashore…..Up against a boat ramp or little pier was the easiest! Occasionally, we climbed a metal ladder, waded through very shallow water or even walked the plank!! We quickly became accustomed to helping each other, adjusting life jackets and knowing where Skipper wanted us when he said Stern or Starboard! We didn’t all go ashore each trip, it was never compulsory ( although I’m sure Skipper and Chef enjoyed the break from us!!) and it often depended on the terrain which needed traversing. Sometimes we walked along together, other times we went our own ways; oftentimes, I wandered off by myself, but ran into others along the way! I missed 1 excursion, due to the fact I was resting, but enjoyed all the other adventures ashore. 

      • We went ashore by Stonefield Castle Hotel, on the mainland, which happened to be where Skipper was born and spent the first 12 years of his life. This excursion was in the rain! 
      • Tarbert, no. 1, on the mainland, was very flash, we didn’t need the tender here….Could walk on or off the Marina at will! A lovely little seaside town. 
      • At Saddell, also on the mainland, we all walked along to see an ancient Abbey’s ruins, and some amazing ancient standing Stones. I even got to play with a cute little puppy! 
      • Our attempt to land at Gigha was aborted due to nowhere suitable to disembark….But it was a great Tender ride ,however, due to the fact that we saw seals, Heilan’ Coos, Shelducks including 16 babies, and a Greylag goose and goslings. 
      • We had a lovely morning’s walk around the little friendly town of Scalasaig, on Colonsay, where I kept telling other tourists recently arrived by Ferry, about the wonders of Argyll Cruising. ( And bought local wool)
      • On the same day as Colonsay, we had a very pleasant 3 hours on Iona. I managed to fill that time with tea & shortbread in a garden café, extensive wanderings at the Iona Abbey, (amazing) and a cider with B & B in a pub garden by the sea! 
      • Also on that glorious day we sailed after dinner to drop anchor near Staffa, where we had a tender ride into Fingal’s Cave. Wonderful! Acoustics were awesome ( we sang to test!)! A remarkable experience! 
      • Next morning, before breakfast, Skipper took 3 of us ashore on Lunga, so that I could see Puffins up close and personal! I did! It was amazing! Thanks to B & B who coached me over the slippery rocks and up the cliff path to the green grass on top! Taught me how to use walking sticks properly too! 
      • Had an extended time ashore on Barra, at Castlebay. (4.5 hours) We had had a long and bumpy trip across from Lunga to Castlebay the day before and had to spend most of it in the dining saloon, so it was nice to get out and about! Also, Skipper and Chef changed the sheets, and generally gave the boat its weekly spring clean. 4 of us caught the local bus that took us right around the island, stopping to pick up people at the ferry port and also at the airport. The airport is amazing! The planes land on the sand! A great excursion. I spent the rest of the time trying to find effective WiFi so I could transfer money to withdraw, and as the library was closed that day, this entailed me having cups of tea and a glass of cider and MUCH chatting! Great fun! 
      • Our next excursion ashore was another Tarbert, on South Harris. Being a Sunday, every cafe, Harris Tweed store, Shop etc was shut!! But we all had a lovely wander to various parts of Tarbert…And I even found a wee pub open near the Ferry terminal that served coffee! Win! 
      • We dropped anchor near the Shiants, 2 tiny little islands, joined together by a tiny stretch of pebble covered land. B, B & I were taken ashore where we had an interesting and picturesque walk on the more accessible of the 2 islands. We climbed across pebbly beaches, saw some amazing sea anemones, staghorn kelp and many colourful pebbles; climbed most of the way up the small Hill, observing butterflies, birds, a natural spring and many beautiful wildflowers; had a look at the only home on the islands, a very old bothy still used by campers. All this whilst the Sun was shining! 
      • That same day we anchored near Dunvegan, on Skye, where we had a lovely walk along the coast road into the village, in search of  butter for chef. ( And sight seeing) Thankfully, the busy little local supermarket was still open! 
      • Next morning,  we had another, shorter stroll ashore, before setting sail for the day. 
      • B, B & I ( the 3 stooges, the Skipper called us!) went ashore the next day onto the island of Rhum. A lovely walk  through bird-lovers paradise, into a tiny village, passing many campers in a range of  accommodations. The Sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the water in the streams burbling….Idyllic! Had a great chat with a young Farmer/volunteer coastguard who is doing up an old cottage for a BnB & made him envious when sharing News of all our wildlife sightings from the Splendour. His wife had a little  craft hut, which was self serve- just put in the money and write down what you bought!!! 
      • That afternoon,  5 of us took the Tender onto Muck…. A smallish island that you could walk across easily in an hour. Only 1 road, so we couldn’t get lost!! Once again, glorious sunshine and wonderful scenery, friendly locals and lots of other visitors arriving at the pontoons. I had a wonderful wander…..Visited the local craft shop which was, once again, self serve/ honesty system. I chatted to an English couple who wished to buy some home made jam, but didn’t have right  change. I eventually convinced them that I’d add the jam to my purchases and that would make it easier for me! After they’d gone, I noticed the man had left his jacket behind, so I trotted down to the pontoon with it , just as they were about to leave! I was their favourite Aussie!! After that, I joined R & P at the coffee shop for a restoratative pot of tea! I then trotted on through the farm land, talking to sheep,walkers and B & B ! ( Who had made it across the island!)  It was a lovely, sunny afternoon on Muck.
      • Our next trip ashore was into Tobermory, on Mull. All 6 of us spent a wonderful 3 hours exploring this quaint and brightly coloured town. Most of us did shoppping! 3 of us even did a spot of Whisky tasting! I was the only one who walked up to the higher part of town where I found a lovely cafe/art gallery/gift shop with excellent coffee, WiFi,  and a very helpful, friendly young lady. Just as we headed back to the Splendour it started to rain. Perfect timing!
      • Sadly, our next trip in the Tender was our final trip. It was going ashore at Oban at the end of our cruise. ☹️



      Wildlife:

      B & B recorded seeing 53 species of birds on our cruise. Most of these they saw from the boat, but some were seen on their trips  ashore. I can’t possibly remember them all but significant birds for me were:

      • Kittiwakes
      • Puffins
      • Golden eagle
      • White tailed eagle.
      • Shearwaters ( in their 1000s)
      • Guillemots 
      • Puffins 
      • Storm Petrels 
      • Eider ducks
      • Puffins
      • Greylag geese

      B & B also recorded seeing 20 “significant others”  in the wildlife realm. I do think 1 of those 20 was an Aussie, so I’m not sure of the true numbers!! Amazing sightings for me were:

      • An Orca ( killer whale) Only the 3rd one Skipper’s seen in his life! 
      • Lots of seals….Sunning themselves on rocks or swimming up to see what we were doing.
      • Several pods of dolphins…One lot swam along with us for ages.
      • Minke whales.
      • Porpoises.
      • Otters.
      • Cows ( ashore), including Highland cows. 
      • Red deer.
      • Many sheep of many varieties.
      • Rabbits.


      Food! 

      • Breakfast  : Everyday there was porridge and toast & jams ( & vegemite for me!) , Pots of tea and coffee, and a cooked breakfast of some sort…. Kippers, eggs in many ways,  pancakes, eggy bread & bacon, full Scottish,  baked beans, etc etc! 
      • Elevenses : a freshly baked biscuit each with pots of tea and coffee.
      • Lunch : Depending on weather sometimes freshly made soup, freshly made bread, quiche, wonderful salads, cold meats, cheeses, pate, sandwiches, pasta bake, fish patties. Always fruit and tea and coffee and water. 
      • Afternoon tea : a slice of home made cake with pots of tea and coffee.
      • Dinner : either entrée  (asparagus,Smoked salmon) or cheese board ( 3 British cheese with oatcakes) dessert most nights but not always: chocolate mousse, mango cheesecake, mixed Fruit crumble & custard, poached pears & spicy chocolate sauce, lemon & caramel posset with raspberries, berries & cream, strawberries & marscapone.  Main course always had wonderful, varied vegetables along with a parade of  delights: Lamb  shanks,Smoked haddock, beef cheeks, roast pork, turkey breasts in yoghurt, roast lamb, venison, salmon, roast pork, Balmoral chicken ( haggis stuffing) , chicken & chorizo tagatelle, duck, beef & chorizo stew.

      All meals were amazing, cooked to perfection but best of all, Chef’s portion sizes were perfect!! He quickly remembered who liked small serves, extra gravy, to finish the salad ( me) , no cheese, etc. Amazing! I offered to adopt him and take him home but he doesn’t like the sound of Australia’s wildlife!!! 

      I know this has been long-winded, but my Hebridean Odyssey was so good! On the last evening of our trip, I  sang a little song I’d written about it all to my fellow passengers & crew! This took them by surprise, not knowing it’s something I’d often do in days gone past!! My lovely fellow passengers seemed to enjoy the song, in which they all featured, and they happily joined in with the chorus; but I’m not sure that Skipper & Chef coped terribly well!!!! To finish this Saga, I’ll leave you with the chorus of my corny song, sung to the tune of  Waltzing Matilda! …..

      “Sailing on the Splendour, zooming in the Tender, 

      Nothing is more wonderful than sailing on this Sea,

      I’m so pleased that I came on this Hebridean Odyssey, 

      Even when that sea gets a little bumpy! ”



        My Hebridean Odyssey: Part 1. 

        The Hebrides.

        Back in March 2016, my interest was piqued by an Ad I saw in a “Britain” magazine about a fairly new cruise company called Argyll Cruising, that did various length cruises all around the Western Isles of Scotland. I perused their web site and was most impressed so I sent off an email asking a couple of questions: Did they charge a single supplement and would I see Puffins? I received a prompt, polite and informative reply from Jamie Duncan, the Shore manager : no single supplement (!!!!) and depending on which cruise I took I would most certainly see Puffins! I continued to pester Jamie with questions over the next few months, always receiving a prompt, friendly and kindly reply….Then I paid a deposit…Then my balance and then …. finally….On Saturday July 1st, 2017, I found myself standing on Holy Loch Marina, Sandbank, (near Dunoon), finally meeting Jamie, and his Dad, Iain; owner and Captain of the Splendour.( Hereafter referred to as Skipper!) 

        Jamie (Shore manager) and Iain (Skipper). 

        In their usual kindly and efficient manner, Jamie and Iain had us all (6 passengers, plus the Chef and our luggage) neatly stowed in our cabins, and we found ourselves gathered in the dining saloon, a glass of bubbly in hand, hearing about the boat routines, safety drills and our sailing course for that day. And then we were off! My long-awaited, much anticipated, 13 night Hebridean Odyssey was about to begin! 

        So let me introduce you to my fellow passengers…….R & P from Yorkshire; experienced cruisers! 

        B & B from Shropshire; experienced walkers and bird watchers.

        D from Pennsylvania, USA; experienced sailor.

        And to the crew….

        Simon, Chef extraordinaire, from Lancashire; experienced chef ( of course) , reader and movie buff.
        Skipper, Iain,  from Tarbert, Loch Fyne area, Scotland ; experienced Captain, engineer, Wildlife Spotter, people manager, er…. Experienced Skipper! 

        The Splendour, started life as a fishing boat/ trawler in 1959, in NE Scotland; experienced vessel! Lives up to her name! 

        The Tender; without which we wouldn’t be able to go ashore! My adorable cabin and wee ensuite; mostly fitted out by Skipper; my private little den of comfort!! 

        Things I expected before I boarded :

        • I would enjoy my cruise
        • I wouldn’t get seasick ( I hoped!)
        • I’d be well fed.
        • I’d enjoy seeing some wildlife.
        • I’d enjoy exploring some islands.
        • I’d need to hide away a lot from other passengers because of my CFS. 
        • I’d find it difficult to last until dinner @ 7:30 pm, normally in my PJs by then. 
        • I’d be pleased to leave the Boat after 14 days.                                                         

        But what I did NOT expect was THAT I WOULD FALL IN LOVE     !!!!!!

        I fell in love with……

        • The sea, it’s rhythms, it’s sounds, it’s changing beauty.
        • The gentle lapping of  the water on my port holes at night.
        • The gentle rocking of the boat, especially at night.
        • The not-so-gentle rocking of the sea on a couple of days, I loved it!!!
        • Being able to eat a cooked breakfast whilst everything was rolling around the dining saloon, and not feeling the least little bit seasick!
        • The constant supply of beautiful, healthy, perfect-portion-sized meals of great variety! 
        • The daily routines and rhythms of ship board life…When the generator comes on, meal times, ashore times, life jackets on in the tender.
        • The incredible, constant array of wildlife , in the sea, the air and on land.
        • Trusting on the Skipper’s local knowledge and experience with all things “sea” for our next day’s travel.
        • Anchoring in yet another beautiful, protected Loch.
        • Scotland.
        • Self deprecating, friendly, Scottish people, not ones to waste words.
        • My fellow passengers…..Sure I needed some alone time( we all did) but I loved their company, and rather than rushing to escape them at the end of the trip,  I cried to leave them! 
        • I did need a kip or a read in my cabin every afternoon and I didn’t make it to 2 dinners, but generally my health & fitness has never been so good. 😊
        • The islands themselves … All different but all beautiful in their own way.     
        • Sunny days on the deck.
        • Rainy days.        
        • The list could go on and on!    But I won’t for now, I’ll leave that to Part 2!

        My Cotswolds Idyll.

        I left Poole on a Bank holiday Monday morning, which meant things were not quite normal. For example, there was track work happening whilst the commuters were on holiday. Car hire offices generally weren’t open, except for those at airports. Some shops were open, many were not. And so on. What this meant for me was 4 trains to get to Gatwick airport, to pick up my hire car. The trains went quite well, the staff were helpful and redirected me to the new routes, platforms, kiosks, etc(!) and I arrived only an hour later than intended to the car rental part of Gatwick airport. The staff in my particular office were in bank holiday mode or maybe they are normally inefficient but I waited FOREVER before I was handed some keys to a Ford Focus!

        Thus armed, I set off….About half a mile down the road to a Maccas! I desperately needed a toilet, a cuppa, a power point for my phone and to work out where I needed to go!! Having completed these important tasks, I finally set off to The Cotswolds! Being the end of a long weekend, there was a lot of traffic heading back into London, but going my way was pretty easy going! The closer I travelled towards my destination, the wider my grin grew! I was surrounded by rolling green hills, White fluffy sheep and I went from the Motorway to A roads then  to narrow, hedge bordered B roads and then I was there..A tiny village called Hidcote Boyce. When I saw my Airbnb, my grin turned into a happy chuckle!


        See what I mean? Gorgeous!! My window is the middle one upstairs, surrounded by Wisteria!


        And then I went inside!! My room was perfect, complete with en suite.


        The breakfast room..


        The host family were equally delightful…Dad , Mum, 12 year old girl recovering from a tonsillectomy, 5 year old girl very much like my little 5 y.o. grandaughter and an Aunt from Bulgaria. All very welcoming, interesting and interested in Australia, me and my family.

        After that wonderful start, it just continued being wonderful, so wonderful that it is very difficult to chose a few photos only!! But I’ll try..

        Nearby Chipping Camden…..


        The glorious ( and huge) Hidcote Gardens..

        Moreton-in-Marsh, where I only have photos from the cafe where I had lunch!

        Stow-on-the-Wold….

        Bourton-on-the-water…..


        Bibury…..

        Snowshill Manor and Garden….


        My 3 days flew by! And to top it all off……

        They’ve asked me to Housesit for them next year…. Bliss! ☺️

        Guernsey, with a little Sark on the side!


        What a wonderful time I had on Guernsey, and a lot of that was due to my very kind taxi driver/tour guides..Barry & Tina. But I’ll get to them later! 

        Day 1 was warm and sunny, and I caught an earlyish bus from my Airbnb to the other side of the island, to St Peter Port. Mine host had told me where to catch the bus, but as I was wandering around looking for the bus stop, along trundled said bus!! Oh no! So I hailed the bus driver, and he stopped, with not a bus stop in sight!! How kind. The trip was nearly an hour and it was a great snapshot of Guernsey life..Children going to school, OAPs going shopping, workers off to work & 1 tourist, me! The scenery was divine too, and I glimpsed some happy looking Guernsey cows along the way. Arriving in St Peter Port, I found I was not the only tourist there! People everywhere…Lots of Brits on half term holidays with their families, but also heaps were in town for a few hours from a big Cruise ship that had “parked” nearby! After a lovely breakfast including Guernsey butter, 

        I walked to the Port to catch a ferry to the small island of Sark. 


        Thus followed a wonderful day!! Sark had taken my interest because they have no motor vehicles on the island apart from tractors. The main mode of transport is by bicycle, or horse drawn buggies. 


        So….After a sustaining cuppa, I hired a bike and peddled around a small part of the little island of Sark! It was delightful! 


        My main aim was to visit a garden I’d read about called the Seigneurie garden. A Seigneur, or Dame,  is kind of like a Governor, or Lord/Lady of the island. The “job” is hereditary, and their role has gradually changed over the many years since the first Seigneur in the mid 16th century. A Seigneurie is where the Seigneur lives! Whilst the current Seigneur and his family live in the beautiful old house, which is private and not for visitors, the gardens are run by a trust and are for the public. I had  heard that both the garden and tearooms were delightful….They were! 


        After quite a few hours of wandering, talking, drinking tea and eating Guernsey icecream, I peddled back to the village and wandered down to the Port, to catch my return ferry. 

        On arrival in St Peter Port, my faithful taxi driver and his wife were waiting for me and we three went back to theirs for much chatting and a fish supper! 


        That same taxi driver picked me up the next day and drove me to his ( & David’s) Mum’s home. After a cuppa, we four set off for a whistle stop tour of Guernsey. We drove all around the island and I learnt so much about Guernsey’s history, and David’s childhood and young  adulthood.(!!) 

        We had a delightful lunch in a restaurant near where they used to keep their boat. I chose the Ploughman’s .. I needed a couple of ploughmen to help me eat it too!!


        I saw reservoirs, sea views, German bunkers and Norman towers; pebbly beaches, sandy beaches, a manor house, little cottages, Victor Hugo’s house, and lots of great spots to buy and eat fish and chips!! We , of course, stopped for pots of tea!! We also stopped so that I could walk through the dear little, recently restored Little Chapel. We talked, laughed, reminisced and thoroughly wore ourselves out! A wonderful day! Thank you, Barry, Tina and Phil..I hope I’ll get back for longer one day! They left me at the ferry terminal, ready for my crossing to Poole, and I bet they all went home and collapsed! 


        I really enjoyed my short stay on Guernsey. 

        Jersey. 


        Having left my luggage in safe keeping (I hope) , I enjoyed the short and picturesque walk into St Helier. Firstly, I needed breakfast! Hunger and thirst assuaged, I then set off to sort my other priorities for that day….money, and the bus station! Did you know that Jersey and Guernsey print their own pounds? British money works on J & G, but Jersey & Guernsey money is not accepted on the mainland! So the correct amount was needed, and no more! On arrival at the conveniently close bus station, I was pleased to find that 4 different bus routes went past the Jersey zoo, so I was set!


        You may wonder…..why did she want to visit the Jersey zoo? So I will tell you, whether you wondered or not!! During my early teenage years, my Mum and I enjoyed reading all the Gerald Durrell books. Through them we learned of many countries and animals, both familiar and unfamiliar! We learnt that in 1959, Gerald Durrell established a conservation enterprise, called the Jersey zoo, where he did his small part of preventing some animal species from becoming extinct. Mum and I were fascinated! Also, coincidentally, my book club is reading his first book later this year!

        After a very roundabout but picturesque bus ride to the zoo, I firstly checked, and rechecked, the time my return bus would leave, not wishing to miss another ferry!


        I loved my few hours at the zoo. It was small enough to see most of it, the surroundings were lush, the sun was shining and I enjoyed listening to various keeper talks along the way. I especially appreciated hearing about the Orangutan and what the Durrell conservation group were doing to assist their survival. The education programmes, the local (Borneo) exposure of  palm oil companies ‘ malpractice that affect the Orangutan ‘s natural environment, and the successful resettlement of young Os back in Borneo. A wonderful outing all round!


        Refreshed by a pot of tea, I caught the correct bus back to St Helier, walked back to the ferry terminal, and arrived there at approximately the time my helpful young lady should be opening the cafe. Would she return? Would my luggage still be there? Would I catch the correct ferry , finally, to Guernsey? The answers are yes, yes and yes…with only 1 slight blip!! It was a different young lady manning the cafe! I went up to her tentatively and asked, “You’re not the girl that was here this morning are you?” Her reply was a grin and “You must be Moira! I’ll go get your luggage!” Relief!!! 😁 Following is a photo of my relieved self!


        So, only 25 hours later than expected..I arrived in Guernsey! Yay! My friend David’s  brother, and his wife, were waiting to pick me up and they kindly delivered a tired and relieved me to my accommodation. Woohoo!